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If only people would learn from other countries like Germany

Summary:
This letter to The Guardian could be a spoof we suppose although we think, sadly, that it’s meant to be serious. Germany has, it appears, dealt with the coronavirus rather better than our own dear and pleasant land: Martin Kettle is absolutely right in his comparison between Germany’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and that of the UK (On different planets: how Germany tackled the pandemic, and Britain flailed, 24 June). But one big factor is the fact that Germany is not, as he writes, just “a bit more prosperous” than Britain. Its standard of living is much higher than ours and there is certainly less of a divide between the rich and poor than there is here. The much higher standards of hygiene in Germany and of health care have also been an important contributing factor to the

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This letter to The Guardian could be a spoof we suppose although we think, sadly, that it’s meant to be serious. Germany has, it appears, dealt with the coronavirus rather better than our own dear and pleasant land:

Martin Kettle is absolutely right in his comparison between Germany’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and that of the UK (On different planets: how Germany tackled the pandemic, and Britain flailed, 24 June). But one big factor is the fact that Germany is not, as he writes, just “a bit more prosperous” than Britain. Its standard of living is much higher than ours and there is certainly less of a divide between the rich and poor than there is here. The much higher standards of hygiene in Germany and of health care have also been an important contributing factor to the country’s much lower Covid-19 infection and death rates.

That health care system is certainly less centralised than our own. Testing, for example, was carried out by some 400 labs all over the country instead of our system which seemed to have Public Health England (for England, of course) insisting that only they, the very priesthood, could possibly be competent to do anything. Not a competence they then went on to prove.

It’s also true that the German health care system as a whole is based upon insurance, not direct tax funding, with some 130 different insurance funds. Both the GPs and hospitals are near all in the private sector, not run by the government. All of which makes this such a lovely second point made in the letter:

Our government of Little Englanders and fanatical privateers will never admit that we could learn something from another nation, let alone from Germany. Angela Merkel has pursued a politics of consensus and moderation, whereas our Conservatives have consistently followed the discredited neoliberalism of the US and the chaotic response to this pandemic is a direct result.

Any such move to fund health care in Britain by insurance, or to free the hospitals from the National Health Service, would be decried as the imposition of that neoliberalism, wouldn’t it? Actually, even the modest moves already made are so described.

We agree that we should all learn from foreign countries because the experiments there might indeed be more successful than our home grown attempts. But we would suggest that consideration of what Johnny F has managed to get up to be informed by a modicum of knowledge concerning what Mr. J. Foreigner has been and is doing. For that would seem to be the correct manner of picking the useful information from those experiments in those foreign climes.

You know, that near no one else has the National Health Service being an indication that perhaps the National Health Service isn’t quite the way to do it? And if the absence of the NHS leads to better health care, as is the claim here, then perhaps it’s the NHS that we might want to reform in that neoliberal direction?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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